Monday, 5 January 2015

Winter lichens

I've just re-read my last blog. What a load of tosh - sometimes I really want to go back and slap myself!

Can I redeem myself with stunning observations regarding lichens? 

I do face a genuine problem here. Tom Chester, in an article enticingly called 'The Saxicolous Churchyard Lichens of Lowland England' wrote: 'In landlocked counties such as my own (Northamptonshire) where there are no natural rock exposures and only vestiges of ancient woodland and heathland, the churchyard is by far the richest habitat for lichens'. (British Wildlife, Vol. 8, p. 161). In other words, if a lichenologist were asked to draw up a list of Britain's most exciting counties in terms of lichens, Northamptonshire would probably be firmly rooted at the bottom. (I accidentally typed 'Northamptonshite'; perhaps I should have allowed the error to remain.)

Out for a stroll today I saw no saxicolous lichens at all (saxicolous simply means growing or living on or among rocks) for I wandered through a patch of immature, scrubby woodland in a suburban environment - hardly a prime lichen habitat.

Xanthoria polycarpa - probably - on a twig adjacent
to Christchurch Drive, Daventry. 3 January, 2015 

But of course there were lichens to be seen. Indeed some branches were so thickly encrusted with them that hardly any bark could be glimpsed. The lichen responsible for this is probably Xanthoria polycarpa; the similar Xanthoria parietina has a more 'flattened' appearance. (I failed to examine the patch of grey lichen at the top so I cannot put a name to it.) 

A colourful cluster of lichens with the grey Punctelia
subrudecta prominent. Woodland by Christchurch Drive,
Daventry. 3 January, 2015

Punctelia subrudecta was present. It is common across Wales and England but in Northants and adjacent counties few records appear on the NBN Gateway maps. That is not to say that it is rare around here but that records may not have been submitted.
Lecidella elaeochroma on a tree trunk. Christchurch Drive.
Daventry. 3 January, 2015

'Ah.' I hear you say, 'A species of Lecidella.'  And I'm sure you are right - but which one? My money is on Lecidella elaeochroma; the appearance is correct as is the habitat - and it can withstand urban pollution too. 


Lecidella elaeochroma - a closer look.

It can take the form of an oval patch very much like that of Lecanora chlarotera (see previous blog) but a closer look shows that the ascocarps have no margin and so do not have that 'jam tart' appearance.

Parmelia perlatum beside Christchurch Drive, Daventry.
3 January, 2015

Thirty years ago this next species would have been a real surprise. Parmotrema perlatum is sensitive to atmospheric pollution but with the improvements in air quality it has steadily recolonised areas which were once a no-go area for this lichen. This was photographed about 50 metres from a very busy trunk road! In parts of India this species is used as a spice.

Cladonia chlorophaea adds interest to a section of
fencing. Christchurch Drive, Daventry.,
3 January, 2015

A section of fencing bore patches of Cladonia chlorophaea with its cup-like podetia. This is quite common and widespread as is the similar C. fimbriata. Cladonias are very tough cookies and are abundant in the arctic regions. Cladonia rangifera is the true 'Reindeer Moss' - from which it will be seen that the word 'moss' is often used wrongly (cf the word 'bug').

Hazel catkins near Christchurch Drive, Daventry.
3 January, 2015

Anyone who has read thus far will be all lichened-out so, as a reminder of what a mild winter it has been, here are more examples of fully-open hazel catkins. And it is still only the first week in January!

Tony White. E-mail:

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